At Close Range
There's an inherent value to feeling one with nature. Studies show nature is intertwined with our personal happiness and satisfaction.
"Speak to the earth, and it shall teach thee."
-- The Bible
A tremendous amount has been written about the value of encountering nature close-up. Gallagher in The Power of Place, quoted James Swan, a Bay area psychologist who shared that his prescription for inner conflict was spending time alone with no activities or distractions in a natural setting.
Swan observes that as we spend most of our time indoors, we become estranged from "...the vast mine of meaning, art, metaphor, and teaching that we evolved in."
According to Gallagher, Americans have increased their spending by 60% from 20 years ago on outdoor activities and trips to natural settings. Everywhere are signs that we as a people long to reconnect with our natural environment. In exploring our growing attraction to nature-based activities, as well as the benefits of such endeavors, Gallagher cites a study conducted by Stephen and Rachel Kaplan. The Kaplans concluded that nature restores us by easing mental fatigue. They also observed that in engaging in the various specialized activities required by our technologically-based society, we've come to suffer more mental fatigue than did our ancestors. Listening to a rambling brook, feeling a gentle breeze ruffle one's hair, lifting one's face to the sun, following the flight of a butterfly - each of these experiences can be soothing and restorative.
Gallagher points out that Marc Fried, a psychologist, determined in his study of those elements which enhance the quality of life, that while the strongest predictor of life satisfaction was a good marriage, the immediate surroundings (the natural environment in particular) rated second. Not everyone is graced by a garden in the backyard, a beautiful view, a park across the street, etc. However, just about anyone can bring some degree of nature home by including live plants or fresh flowers in their personal domain and even workplace. I encourage the people with whom I work to do so as often as possible.
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Henry David Thoreau wrote, "Measure your health by your sympathy with morning and spring. If there is no response in you to the awakening of nature, -- if the prospect of an early morning walk does not banish sleep, if the warble of the first bluebird does not thrill you, --know that the morning and spring of your life are past."
As a little girl, I greeted the early morning sun with joy. My response to its hello was to immediately get out of bed. I didn't want to risk missing a moment of the magic that might come my way. As a child raised in the country, the outdoors offered me a world of wonder and abundance. There was sweet clover, my grandmother's raspberries and rhubarb, and the wild strawberries of late July to sample. There were the lilacs of spring, and the roses and green grass of summer to smell. There were wildflowers to pick, hills to roll down, trees to climb and to lean against. There was the rain to dance in. There were fields to lie down in and the wide and infinite blue sky to gaze up at.
Too often now, in the years far beyond my childhood, I interpret the dawn less as a greeting and more as a warning. It reminds me that I must get out of bed soon and face responsibilities. I'm sad for a moment as I recognize all that I've lost in adulthood and then I smile. There are still flowers and grass to smell, trees to climb and lean against, hills to roll down, and rain to dance in. And what's more, to accompany me, I now have my own little girl who greets the morning sun with joy.
I was born and raised in Aroostook county, Maine's largest and most northern frontier. I've complained about its isolation, its lack of opportunity, and its frigid winters. And yet I've longed for its natural beauty, its slower pace, the brilliantly lit night sky, and the fields of flowers that stretch for as far as the eye can see. I've suffered and I have healed there. I seldom found novel adventures or a variety of cultural activities, but I did find people connected to the land and to each other. Nowhere else in my travels have I encountered the sense of belonging that I left behind when I moved away. Nowhere else has my soul felt so at peace. While I've been graced by the bounty and beauty of other places; there will always be a piece of my soul which gently asks that every now and then at the very leas -- I take it home.
Staff, H. (2008, November 3). At Close Range, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, September 29 from https://www.healthyplace.com/alternative-mental-health/sageplace/at-close-range